West Virginia's executive budgeting model provides the governor and executive agencies with much authority in budget development and implementation. Significant gubernatorial authority includes sole responsibility for establishing revenue estimates, line item veto, and the ability to extend the legislature's regular session if they do not enact a state budget before the new state fiscal year. The state's budget process begins with the governor's central budgeting agency releasing guidelines for agency budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year. These guidelines have included cuts of three to ten percent across agencies due to recent declines in state revenue. The governor's budget proposal is a compilation of agency budget requests developed to meet the executive's goals.
The legislature's authority in the budget process is limited by legal prohibitions to changing the governor's revenue projections and creating a deficit. The legislature's changes to the executive budget proposal must be cost neutral - an increase in funding in one area must be accompanied by an equivalent cut in another area. Limited staff to examine the governor's budget proposal and track agency administration of programs also restricts the legislature's influence.
The Department of Health and Human Resources administers a range of public welfare programs including TANF, child care, child welfare, adoption, and foster care. In West Virginia Medicaid and SCHIP are administered by two different agencies: Medicaid is administered by the Bureau of Medical Services within the Department of Health and Human Resources, whereas SCHIP is administered by the Children's Health Insurance Agency within the Department of Administration.
Two factors have converged to provide the Department of Health and Human Resources influence and autonomy in developing and implementing the state's social welfare budget. First, the governor's executive budgeting agency and legislature have limited staff to oversee the Department and must rely heavily on the expertise of Department staff during all phases of the budget process. Second, the state's budget typically appropriates funds at a broad level rather than itemizing funding in detailed appropriations, which are legal mandates restricting flexibility in budget implementation. This approach gave the Department significant authority to allow a large surplus of TANF funds to accumulate when caseloads plummeted in the late 1990s and to allocate the state's surplus TANF funds to programs and services when West Virginia started to spend down these dollars.
"report.pdf" (pdf, 1.52Mb)